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The Cheap Houston Astros Jerseys face a lot of uncertainty in the rotation next season. *This* would be my ideal starting five on Opening Day.
In 2020, the starting rotation for the Astros lacked depth after the losses of Gerrit Cole and Justin Verlander. Nonetheless, Cheap Framber Valdez Jersey and Cristian Javier stepped up and both received votes in the Cy Young and American League Rookie of the Year.
The issue as the 2021 season nears, however, is the lack of depth and experience. Verlander will most likely not pitch in the regular season in ’21, according to general manager James Click, but the organization is hopeful to see him in October if Houston advances. One big name I brought up last month was the return of Charlie Morton, but he signed with the Atlanta Braves, which means my two other projected free agent targets, Chris Archer and Cole Hamels, are still up for grabs. With McCullers, Greinke, and Verlander all hitting free agency after the ’21 season, it is time for the Astros to evaluate the future of the starting rotation. Here is what I see as the ideal rotation for the 2021 Houston Astros:
1. Framber Valdez, L
In his first full season as a starter, Valdez was arguably the ace of the rotation, but his experience lacks compared to Greinke and McCullers. The left-hander finished 2020 with an ERA of 3.57, which ranked second among starters. Valdez is currently the only left-handed arm on staff which adds much needed value and versatility to a right-handed heavy rotation. He finished 11th in Cy Young voting which isn’t spectacular, but it shows how voters are respecting his craft. Valdez will be 27 years old next season and is now seen as a reliable ace to a changing rotation.
Imagine that the 2021 trade deadline is approaching and the Astros are on the outside looking in. There is a distinct possibility that they will fail to make the playoffs. What’s to be done? How should general manager James Click act?
Barring injuries, this is the worst-cast scenario for next year.
As unlikely as it is for this to be reality next summer, it’s not entirely improbable, and thus must be taken into consideration. The implications alone render it highly consequential. The implications, of course, are the impending free agencies of shortstop Cheap Carlos Correa Jersey and starting pitchers Cheap Zack Greinke Jersey and Cheap Lance McCullers Jr. Jersey
In this scenario, Click would have to make hugely significant decisions, ones that could end up defining his Astros tenure.
If Click chooses not to alter the team’s course in the face of questionable playoff odds and decides to mush on, he’d be taking an enormous risk. Should the gamble pay off and the Astros rally late in the season and earn the right to play in October, no harm, no foul. But if they were to fall short, the result would be an abject disaster.
Failing to secure a playoff spot in a weak division is a catastrophe by itself. The fallout, however, would be even worse.
The Astros would not only have missed the playoffs, but would have let three key players reach free agency. The complexities of any ensuing qualifying offers notwithstanding, the bottom line is that the Astros would have missed out on trading Correa, Greinke and McCullers for substantially more value than the club would receive via compensatory draft picks.
This leads us to the other side of the coin.
Come the trade deadline, if Click is unsure of the Astros reaching the playoffs, it could be prudent to trade Correa, Greinke and McCullers. Essentially waiving the white flag in what was supposed to be this core’s last playoff hurrah would be disheartening, but ultimately necessary.
Exactly how much value the trio could yield in trades at the deadline is something that cannot yet be known, but suffice it to say that their respective returns would better position the Astros to retool their roster than one or two compensatory draft picks would.
This whole context is purely abstract for now, and for a multitude of reasons, the chances are low that the Astros will find themselves in this conundrum. If it were to transpire, however, the significance of next year’s trade deadline cannot be overstated.
At this point, Correa, Greinke and McCullers are not on the brink of free agency as they would be many months from now, but the notion of something getting done this winter is an impractical one, especially given the current circumstances.
Heading into this offseason, a Correa extension was seemingly a top priority, but it now looks as though the Astros will begin next year’s season without a Correa extension being completed, which would all but guarantee that he’d become a free agent next winter.
There have been reports that the Astros are looking to trade Correa this winter, and Click did not issue a denial when asked about them. In fact, he seemed to subtly confirm the rumors.
Unless the unexpected should happen, Greinke will reach free agency, and though there is a case to be made for extending McCullers, there’s been no indication that the club will even attempt to ink him to a long-term deal.
To be clear, this is a self-imposed crossroads that the organization is facing. While the Astros and Correa may come to an agreement on an extension later this offseason, there’s currently no reason to suspect that it will happen.
If it doesn’t, then the club will be primed to have lost superstar talents in three consecutive offseasons — starting pitcher Gerrit Cole in 2019, outfielder George Springer in 2020 and Correa in 2021. It’s remarkable how that’s possible, given that hardly any money is committed beyond next year.
Regardless of that possibility, 2021 will be an interesting year for the Astros. There’s a good chance they open the season as the favorites to win the AL West, and there’s now talk of ace Cheap Justin Verlander Jersey hoping to pitch in 2021 despite undergoing Tommy John surgery less than three months ago.
Verlander is also a free agent after next season, but because of his recovery window extending to at least next September, he’ll possess no trade value, should the Astros be sellers at the deadline.
If the rest of this offseason plays out the way it’s expected to, the Astros will not extend any of their core players who are set to be free agents a year from now. By doing this, they make the scenario I’ve described a potential reality. Should it come to pass, there will be only one person to blame for it, and it won’t be the general manager.
2. Lance McCullers Jr., R
McCullers had to shake some rust off in 2020 after Tommy John sidelined him in 2019. The former All-Star struggled with command and first pitch strikes and didn’t seem like his energetic, fun-loving-self last season, and in part, it had to do with his production. With a 3.93 ERA, McCullers had issues with his pitch count when the batting order would come back up for a second time. At 27 years old, McCullers has much to prove in his last year under contract with Houston, and needs to show he can perform closer to his 2017-18 level.
3. Zack Greinke, R
Greinke was in a funk in the backend of the ’20 season, and as he has gotten into his upper 30s, his velocity is dropping. Movement and command have been his best friends in recent years as he has strayed away from a power fastball. Greinke will be 38 after the 2021 season, and while this is his last season under contract, it is time to evaluate his future status as an Astro. Greinke adds experience and diligence to a young, scrappy rotation, but unlike last season, I do not see him being a trade piece come August.
4. Cheap Jose Urquidy Jersey, R
Urquidy missed much of the 2020 season after a significant rookie campaign. Injuries halted the progression of the 25-year-old, but he did not seem to be fazed when he made his return late into the season. Through five starts, Urquidy posted a 2.73 ERA while fanning 17 batters through 29.2 innings. His strikeout rate dropped from the ’19 season, but with such a small sample size, it is hard to evaluate a real difference. Urquidy seems to be the better fit over Cheap Cristian Javier Jersey in this spot due to the versatility that he provides.
5. Sign Chris Archer, R
This one might seem a little out of nowhere, but the Astros need another arm, and the best candidate is former Tampa Bay Ray’s ace, Chris Archer. The 32-year-old right-hander is 3 seasons removed from his last All-Star appearance, but injuries plagued his last 2 seasons in Pittsburgh. This is where Brent Strom comes in the picture. As one of the best pitching coaches in the league, Strom can work to bring back the career for Archer. The addition to Archer is that the Astros can bring him in on a low-risk deal, because he might have to sign a minor league deal or a contract under $3 million a year and add an incentive bonus. Archer has never been a pitcher with a low ERA, but he likes to strike batters out which is what the Astros will need in the backend of their rotation.
Cristian Javier, R
While finishing third in AL ROY voting in 2020, Javier might be best suited as a long reliever/set-up man for the ’21 season. The young right-hander showed great lengths with his time out of the pen in the postseason, but the Astros did not often rely on him in big situations. With an evolving game, Javier could also be used in an opener role as the Astros will hit bumps down the round with injuries and rotational movement. He will see time in the starting role, but it is always valuable to add arms.